rating: 3.5(Review should have been up over the weekend but got lost in the shuffle. Apologies. This is also why it's written pre-Oscar announcement). Probably the lowest of the low key films with even a fighting chance at gaining an Oscar nomination, and released last Friday in major cities and little where else is Get Low, a quiet but clever and wonderfully acted little drama that just might sneak Robert Duvall that Oscar nomination he should have recieved for his brief but mesmerising performance in last year's The Road. Felix Bush (Duvall) is a hermit living alone in the woods, separated from the society around him. Mystified by his seemingly self-imposed confinement, the locals have propagated countless myths and rumours about what he did to warrant such brash self-banishment. One day, however, Felix enters town and asks the owner of the local funeral parlour, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) to prepare his funeral. The catch? Felix wants to hold his funeral while he is still alive, so that he can hear the countless tales told about him, and then finally put to rest the decades-old mystery that concerns a local woman named Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek). Duvall's Felix here is at first the archetypal old man, shooing kids away from his house and generally being rude to anyone who dares come visit. What differentiates him from the prescribed model is that he's not bitter that the children are young and care-free, or that death is just around the corner, but he is instead sullied by guilt, and this distinguished emotional response is what, aside from its curiously rustic setting, sets this aside from similar stories of redemption. That and the fact that the premise - of a man planning to attend his own funeral - is frankly hilarious, though given that he tells everyone that he is attending, some potential suspense is diffused; how galling would it have been for him to sit in the audience of his own funeral, unbeknownst to the crowd, before taking to the stand? An inherent flaw in the actual scenario, where Felix invites everyone who heard a story about him to attend the funeral and tell it, is that people aren't going to want to tell a probably scandalous and libellous story about Felix with him sitting there, and while the film actually mentions this issue, it does little to quell it. Regardless, this is a fiendishly original character-study-cum-dark-comedy, engaging fully with the circumstances of Felix's age, and therefore Duvall's, surely a process that must have been both difficult and somewhat therapeutic, I imagine. Duvall's work here has little in way of grand emotional declarations or Oscar-reel moments, but it is a calmly anguished, fiercely committed turn, if perhaps too slight for the general preferences of the Academy. In a role that is so much about the mythopoeia of one man and how he is percieved by those around him, it only follows that Get Low requires a fetching supporting cast to buoy Duvall's cantankerous old codger, and in Bill Murray, Lucas Black and Sissy Spacek, director Aaron Schneider has found just that. Murray sinks his teeth into his meatiest dramatic role in at least five years, while Sissy Spacek raises her feature acting profile to a level it hasn't been in about a decade. The most pleasant surprise and welcome return, however, is that of Lucas Black, the incredibly talented young actor who starred opposite Billy Bob Thornton in the excellent 1996 drama Sling Blade and has slunk around in bit parts and Hollywood misfires since. A taste of Hollywood homogeny, however, has done little to blunt his Southern charm, which shines through here in spades and perfectly suits the young naiveté and moral predilection of his character as opposed to his partner in crime, Quinn. Dramatically, a great deal of suspense is well-wrung out of the central mystery and the lead-up to it. Though it's perhaps not as revelatory or shocking as you might expect (particularly if you paid attention during the first scene), it is truly affecting off the back of Duvall's heartfelt performance, delivering a tough monologue and reminding us that he's still got the chops that have endeared him to audiences in countless classics from The Godfather to Apocalypse Now. The final scenes do admittedly feel a tad contrived; an ethereal moment is overplayed and conveyed visually when absolutely unnecessary and incongruent to the tone of the film hitherto, while the ultimate inevitability of the film's predicament is excavated and dressed up in neon lights just in case you didn't get it. Still, it's utterly unlike anything else showing at the cinema presently, and the performances are well worth the price of admission, as is the mostly compelling - if at times overly subtle and at others like a bull-in-a-china-shop - narrative. Get Low is out in U.K. cinema's now.